Day 2 .....
Day 2 started with a bit of early morning birding on Bali island. Plain Prinias and Purple-rumped Sunbirds were noted to be abundant around camp and Chestnut-tailed Starlings seemed to have replaced the Common Ioras seen on earlier visits.
Our primary aim on this visit to the Sunderbans was to enjoy the feel of the place. One way to do this is to take a day long cruise through the numerous channels and creeks which are typical of the landscape. These channels eventually connect to great stretches of open water where many rivers meet. Confluences like 'Panchmukhani' gives one the feel of being out on a calm sea without any land in sight ~ a place to appreciate the size and scale of the Sunderbans.
After a quick breakfast we got aboard M.V. Sundari. Our destination ~ the watchtower at Netidhopani. Netidhopani is some distance away from Bali and is the southernmost point we will visit on this trip. Our journey to Netidhopani will take us over the Khanakhali River and then through the many channels which crisscross the Sunderbans. We will eventually connect to the vast stretches of the Goasaba River on the banks of which lies Netidhopani Ghat.
River Gumdi meets the River Kharakhali
Black-capped Kingfishers are much in evidence in the Sunderbans at this time of the year. We counted over forty of these brilliant kingfishers on the trip.
Tidal creeks, like this one, are a feature of the Sunderbans mangrove ecosystem.
The Sunderbans is the land of the tiger, crocodile, shark and venomous snakes. This juvenile Estuarine Crocodile, spotted by Kevin, was one of the few that we saw on the way to Netidhopani.
On a previous visit Bikram Grewal and I spotted an
over 18 feet monster - one of the largest photographed in India.
Day 2 (contd) .....
Fishing is a way of life for the
inhabitants of tide country. Many fishermen travel for days in search of catch
in dangerous country using these small boats (see image) as a home.
Fishing Boat, Khanakhali
While the men face the many hazards
of the the open spaces in search of ever dwindling prey, the women endlessly
trawl the river banks in search of Tiger Prawn fry. A normal catch fetches
Rs.20-25 ($0.50) - the effort of many hours in dangerous waters.
Intensive fry fishing is devastating the ecology of the area as the
non-commercial catch is destroyed and countless marine species have been put
at risk of extinction as a result.
Fry fishing, Khanakhali
The large Whimbrels and Eurasian Curlews are the most
conspicuous birds on the extensive mudflats of the Sunderbans.
Eurasian Curlew Whimbrel
The Tiger is elusive in the Sunderbans. Though its
presence is felt, it is rarely seen. These pugmarks were seen near the area
mentioned in the news snippet.
The Telegraph, Calcutta. 27/1/06:
Calcutta: Champa Naiya, 29, was killed by a tiger off the Matla. She was collecting crabs.
In tiger country, the beast is never called by its
name. Locals refer to the striped feline as "Mama" or uncle from fear and
The mudflats support a variety of marine forms
adapted to the changing water levels which dictate every aspect of life in
tide country. The mudskipper, an air-breathing fish of the Goby family, is a
good example of such adaptability. It is equally at home in land and water
and can use its fins as limbs to crawl and climb.
Though not numerous, Egrets are
conspicuous due to their colouration
Great Egret Little Egret
Day 2 contd......